• Features

Liszt: Deux Legéndes, Ave Maria, Pater Noster, Harmonies du Soir (CD "Visions" - Martin Berkofsky, Arts, 2012)

Franz Liszt “Donatore di Musica”.

Franz Liszt (1811-1886) is often thought of as a great virtuoso, enchanter of the masses, a writer of dazzling music, rich in special effects designed to astound the public and bring him easy success. In reality many of Liszt’s works reflect other aspects of his many-sided personality. He dedicated much of his existence to deep spiritual research, as testified by his numerous writings. Right from his youth he had been attracted by the religious life, to the extent of almost entering a seminary. In 1864, after living a life full of sentimental adventures and peregrinations, he moved to Rome where he took minor orders and intensified his production of sacred or mystically inspired music. But already in 1847 Liszt, the inventor of the piano recital, had abandoned the concert halls, and limited himself to giving concerts only for charity or for noble causes, making composition his principal artistic activity. 

The American pianist Martin Berkofsky feels particularly at ease with the poetic world of Liszt: "Liszt wrote for the universe, – he comments – great music inspires one to a higher purpose because it itself is inspired from a higher purpose and vision." For Martin Berkofsky playing Liszt is almost an experience of mystic contemplation. His view, highly personal and the fruit of long experience, is innovative and at the same time linked to the great tradition of the Golden Age of pianism, that belonging to Busoni, Rachmaninoff, Friedman, Horowitz and the still forgotten Hungarian pianist Ervin Nyiregyházi. As it was for these legendary artists, what counts most in Berkofsky’s opinion is not so much an objective fidelity to the text, as the expression of the emotional, visionary and universal imaginary that inspires Liszt’s poetics. The score itself is, in any case, nothing more than the reflection of a much deeper and more complex message, which transcends the written notation and incarnates absolute truths. The numerous, often radical changes that Berkofsky makes to the original text should therefore be seen in this light: what counts most for him is not the notes in themselves, but the space that lies between them, a space that becomes vital and universal. And so even an openly virtuoso and extrovert piece like the Rapsodia Ungherese n. 12 takes on a new emotional pregnancy. Apparently simple and unassuming works like the Sancta Dorothea and the Ave Maria “Campane di Roma” are now rendered with distilled sonorities that are almost timeless and resound like microcosms that allow us a glimpse of the absolute. The visionary poetics of the two Transcendental Studies, Vision and Harmonies du Soir, is reinterpreted by Berkofsky with a magniloquence that is never rhetorical, being the fruit of an energy and an interior light emanating from a profound spirituality. The two Leggende di San Francesco are particularly suited to his aesthetics and are in fact restituted with a special, loving attention to single details. Also the trills (the chirping of the birds) in St. François d'Assise. La prédication aux oiseaux now sound like timbral objects imbued with their own self-standing beauty, and at the same time in harmony with the whole. In the second Leggenda, the miracle of St. Francis of Paola who walks on the waters of the straits of Messina is narrated with a dynamic potency that is the direct reflection of an indestructible faith and of a higher serenity. This is even more true of the Pater Noster, a veritable prayer in music that Martin Berkofsky plays every morning when he wakes up. Being a pianist is for him much more than a mere profession, as his words confirm: "The job of a musician is to bring beauty and inspiration to others and to do this through the most honest and humble search to find those same qualities within ourselves. How fortunate we are to be part of this life, creating beauty, giving it to others, dedicating our efforts to create a more beautiful world." 


With this CD Martin Berkofsky, Arts and Donatori di Musica wish to offer a gesture of hope to all those who are fighting against illness, in memory of Gian Andrea Lodovici, former artistic director of Arts and the founding father of Donatori di Musica. Martin Berkofsky made these recordings in September 2010, at the age of 67, after having miraculously survived a very serious motorcycle accident and, more recently, a tumor. The energy, enthusiasm and dedication with which Martin worked on these recordings will always be an indelible memory for me and an example of the love of life and of art. 


Roberto Prosseda